Brett and Emily Greenberger were quoted in the May/June 2016 Issue of Social Work Today.
Building a Better Practice
By Kristin Battista-Frazee, MSW
Social Work Today
Vol. 16 No. 3 P. 10
Here is a portion of the article:
To Take Insurance or Not?
Amidst all the trends and changes happening in health care, a core business decision for every private practitioner is whether or not to take health insurance. There is no right or wrong answer, but it is clear many factors come into play when making this decision.
In January 2013, Emily Greenberger, LCSW-C, a licensed school social worker, and her husband, Brett Greenberger, MD, PC, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, took the plunge and opened the Collaborative Counseling Center, a private practice in Columbia, Maryland, focused on providing intensive outpatient services for children.
For the Greenbergers, it was a scary to start their own business, but they both loved working with children and adolescents and saw a pressing need in their community. They had seen too many times how the disconnection between psychiatrists and therapists had a negative impact on care and how hard it was for families to slog through a fragmented care system that sorely lacked specialized services for children.
“We wanted to be the Nordstrom of mental health care and provide a customer and family-centered focus,” says Emily Greenberger, co-owner and clinical director at the Collaborative Counseling Center, as she describes the founding principle of their practice. “We created our practice with the one-stop-shop concept in mind so families could receive all their care from diagnosis to treatment in one place.”
When the Greenbergers launched their practice, in addition to creating a welcoming environment complete with Wi-Fi and soft music and sorting out the details of their location, insurance, and taxes, they had to make a core business decision about accepting health insurance. This would make or break the success of their practice for years to come.
“We knew when we opened our doors, we couldn’t take health insurance and it would take up to six months to be paneled and credentialed,” according to Emily Greenberger. “Also, we couldn’t afford a billing person or an outside company to process claims.”
After careful consideration the Greenbergers decided not to accept health insurance. They determined the affluent county where they were located, the lack of specialized services available for children, and the help they could offer families in submitting out-of-network claims would be enough to sustain their practice. Some might see this as a risky approach, but the gamble paid off.
Today, the Collaborative Counseling Center is a thriving practice where they employ six additional clinicians who offer private counseling and various group sessions five days a week, seeing on average of 15 to 30 clients per day. This didn’t happen overnight, and only recently did they reach a level of service for both of the Greenbergers to be dedicated full-time to their practice and sustain an income to support their family.
Others have taken a different approach when setting up their business model and revenue streams. Samara Stone, LCSW-C, CEO of the The Stone Foundation Counseling Group, has managed a thriving group practice serving more than 100 clients weekly since 2005. “I accept just about every insurance out there because strategically it was the right thing to do and as a social worker I believe in accessibility,” Stone says. “I want working families to have access to quality behavioral health care, so I do my part to make sure that happens by accepting a wide variety of insurance plans.”
In addition to running this private group practice, Stone also coaches others who want to open their own practice as founder and coach of Perfected Practice. She says, “I coach people to unpack and discover who the client will be, what type of practice they will create, and why they want to do this work in the first place.” In working with many aspiring private practitioners she says, “People approach private practice because they think it is the next progressive step in their career, but that’s not reason to hang a shingle.”
Stone and Greenberger echoed that if you want to grow a private practice, developing a sound infrastructure, deciding where to make key investments in operations and marketing, and selecting a specialty are the keys to success. There are many critical and potentially time-consuming administrative aspects (e.g., billing, taxes, and marketing), but it’s necessary to maintaining a revenue stream. Also, social workers have to come to terms with the fact they are ultimately business owners and become more comfortable with earning money.
“Social workers seem to feel uncomfortable about making money; it’s our kryptonite, and this is historically part of our roots as a profession. It’s like if social workers ask for money it’s diluting the purity of the intention. This is beautifully genuine, but we should be concerned about sustainability. We can’t provide a needed service if we’re not profitable,” Stone says.
Practices can consider outsourcing their billing through companies, such as Kasa Solutions, or a local consultant in the community with specific knowledge about billing for mental health services. Sole practitioners have also opted to join group practices to pool administrative resources. Whether it is securing preauthorization with a payer, creating invoices, or keeping track of the latest policy changes and income, this becomes a part of the job and social workers must set aside time to do this to grow a private practice and continue serving a community.
You can read the full article here: http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/052416p10.shtml